2021 Bernabeleva Navaherreros Tinto, Madrid DO, Spain

2021 Bernabeleva Navaherreros Tinto, Madrid DO, Spain



On the eastern edge of Spain’s Sierra de Gredos mountains, about an hours drive west of Madrid, a renowned Madrid doctor named Vincente Alvarez-Villamil purchased land in 1923.  Discovering bear sculptures carved from boulders, he named the estate Bernabeleva or “path of the bear”.  The doctor believed the land sacred, and a special place to plant the noble Garnacha (Grenache) where the wines might exhibit a profound character.

He was correct, but it wasn’t until 2006 when two of his great grandchildren Juan Diez Bulnes and Santiago Matallana Bulnes began to fulfill his dreams.  Many of the vineyards here are at more than 500m elevation, and warm days with cool evenings are the norm in summer. The resulting wines are unlike anything else in Spain, with ample ripeness but also astounding buoyancy and freshness.

Raúl Pérez, a master of cool-climate winemaking, was hired as a consultant and to help develop the project. Understanding Bernabeleva’s potential, Raúl recommended that the gifted young Catalan, Marc Isart Pinos, come in as winemaker. Marc brought with him a devotion to demanding ecological viticulture and to non-interventionist winemaking. Without dogma, he employs long macerations, limited usage of SO2 and aging in used barrels. And he patiently came to understand the character of each of the estate’s many parcels of vines.  The 2021 vintage was Marc last harvest.

The Navaherreros Tinto is selected from the oldest and best parcels throughout the estate’s 35 hectares.  Through different soils (sandy decomposed granite), elevations, orientations and microclimates, the wine is intended to express San Martin de Valdeiglesias’ true terroir in Gredos. The ages of the vines range from 40 to 80 and planting densities from 1,900 to 2,200 vines per hectare.

Vineyards are manually harvested. Vinification takes place in wood, stainless steel or concrete tanks, depending on the features of the grapes, for each site is vinified and aged separately.  It sees a much longer maceration—often exceeding 40 days—and it typically spends an additional year in neutral wood before release.

The 2021 Navaherreros is a pure and transparent expression of Grenache from this great terroir.  Elegant and nimble, fresh with vividly focused, bright, dark raspberry fruit, seamlessly textured; onc could describe this red as Grenache “Burgundy”.  A true joy to drink now, but it will definitely cellar if given a chance.

“The pale, floral and aromatic 2021 Navaherreros Garnacha de Bernabeleva shows really elegantly, with a sophistication and complexity beyond its price point. It has contained ripeness, 14% alcohol and full development of aromas and flavors, with a fine thread in the nicely textured palate and very fine tannins. It’s the best Navaherreros to date and a real bargain. 25,000 bottles produced. It was bottled in April 2023. – 93 points, Wine Advocate (LG)

“Bernabeleva is a notable property in San Martín de Valdeiglesias in Gredos, with 35 hectares of 70+-year-old vines and five more hectares planted 15 years ago. They have a wide range of labels that total around 95,000 bottles per year. The vineyards are certified organic, but the wines do not carry the certification.  2021 delivered wines with less alcohol and ripeness, lighter wines that represent the last vintage of winemaker Marc Isart, who left after that harvest.”  – Wine Advocate – Published: May 31, 2023